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“Simply Unbelievable”
Review of Les Combarelles

Les Combarelles
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
72 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Simply Unbelievable”
Reviewed November 7, 2013

In October I spent 8 days on a National Geographic Expedition visiting caves and archeological sites in Southern France and Northwestern Spain. This was my favorite of all the sites. The cave experience itself is different from the more typical large open caverns which the public usually sees, being only about 3 feet wide and not much more than 6 feet high. This puts you nose to nose with the 100's of engraved animals. The guide we had was excellent, using a red light to point out the lines which form the animals. The sheer number of engravings is astonishing. If you have any interest at all in prehistoric art, this is one you should see. (There are no photos to share because you cannot take photos inside the cave.)

Visited October 2013
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4 Thank WellTraveledCritic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Columbia, MD
Level Contributor
135 reviews
33 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 141 helpful votes
“France's Best Cave for Prehistoric Engravings”
Reviewed October 29, 2013

Les Combarelles cave, some 300 meters long (but only one meter wide!) contains more than 600 engravings carved some 13,000 years ago by our immediate ancestors.

No cave in France is its equal for Cro-Magnon engravings. You'll be pleasantly surprised how equally awe-inspiring these "lowly" engravings can be in contrast to the flashier polychrome paintings at Font-de-Gaume! Lifelike raindeer abound, as do horses, cave bears, cave lions, and woolly mammoths. Symbols, still unexplained, may also be seen.

Guides who speak English are available. But be warned: only 40 visitors a day are permitted entry, so that means you'll have to be up bright and early to get an entrance ticket (at nearby Font-de-Gaume). And, beginning sometime in 2014, no advance tickets will be available.

Do go before it's too late!

Visited October 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank peterportez
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Faversham, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
116 reviews
65 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 114 helpful votes
“Unknown gem”
Reviewed August 20, 2013

We booked this when at FdG and did not expect to much, however it turned out to be our favourite of the two as the bear and lioness are so clear, and the face carvings are quite spooky.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Grahame S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Roseville, Minnesota
Level Contributor
30 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Great prehistoric etchings”
Reviewed August 20, 2013

You get your tickets as you do for Font De Gaume (see my review). Only 44 people may visit this cave a day - in groups of 7. There are no "english speaking tours", but our guide spoke english and gave us some commentary in English. You get amazingly close to the etchings- some, such as the lion, are spectacular. Guide was very good. This is a cave in which yoou have to stoop a great deal. great experience - if you waitin line for tickets for font de gaume, you should do this one as well.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank Jim L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cobleskill, New York
Level Contributor
431 reviews
195 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 177 helpful votes
“Only for those who really want to understand prehistory”
Reviewed August 10, 2013

Only 7 people at a time and something like 40 people admitted per day. This cave was a bonus, because I figured we'd never get tickets and because my stupid preconception was that I was interesting in "paintings" not "dull boring engravings."

So glad I was wrong!

You actually only visit one wing of the cave; the other is blocked off. They think there used to be paintings similar to those at Font de Gaume but because of the microenvironment the pigments had washed away over time. But boring? No way!! Those engravings - in the right light - are as lifelife if not more so than the painted images.

Our guide was incredible! Our tour was in English, although I suspect our European compatriots could have taken the tour in several languages, so they graciously bowed to the uneducated Americans. The guide apologized for his "bad English," which was, of course, impeccable. His enthusiasm and knowledge really made the tour - by the end of the trip we shared his appreciation for the process that the prehistoric artists had endured to create the images. In some cases, they had to wiggle along narrow rock ledges and compose while nose-to-rock in a very confined space - as our guide said: "strong motivation!"

The tour was longer than advertised, and although we could have continued for hours, we left the cave feeling like we had a stronger understanding of the world. (A couple of us got ahead of the group as we headed back toward the entrance and even in a lighted passageway had a little bit of a "cave" experience - I can't imagine how it must be to go into one of these with a smoky stone lamp that is likely to burn out in about 20 minutes.)

This is the real deal. If you want to understand how the cave artists used the contours of the rock, created images that perfectly captured the essence of the animal, and were in some ways more advanced than contemporary homo sapiens, take the Combarelles tour. You will need to queue at the Font de Gaume ticket office quite early in the morning, but it's a small sacrifice.

Visited July 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank therese l
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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